After their preseason loss to the Dallas Stars last night, the Colorado Avalanche reduced their roster again. Now down to 29, the Avalanche roster needs just six more cuts to reach the 23-man maximum.
Colorado Avalanche Roster Almost Finalized
Another (mostly) unsurprising bunch of names went down to the AHL for the Avs. This leaves the toughest decisions for last, as expected. All six players released have been reassigned to the Avs’ AHL affiliate, the Colorado Eagles.
Group Heading to AHL Eagles
The group sent down consisted of three forwards, two defensemen and a goalie. On offence, center Igor Shvyrev (a fifth-round pick in 2017), right wing Martin Kaut (first round selection in 2018), and left-wing Ty Lewis (undrafted) were reassigned.
Defensemen Ryan Graves and Sergei Boikov, 23 and 22 years old respectively, also head to the Eagles. Graves does have to clear waivers first, though, but is unlikely to be claimed.
Finally, goaltender Pavel Francouz leaves the Avalanche roster for now. He could be back up sooner than the rest, though, as he performed well in his preseason opportunities and has strong experience playing in the KHL.
Six Cuts to Go
Of their final 29 players, the Avs have 16 forwards, 11 defensemen, and two goalies. Obviously, this makes goaltending the only position completely set for opening night.
Most teams carry 14 forwards and seven defensemen, giving them wiggle room on a day-to-day basis. This essentially means two extra forwards and one extra defenseman.
Forwards Left to Choose From
For the most part, the Avalanche roster seems predictable on offence. At least the top spots are easy to predict, and other line combinations appear frequently enough to probably draw some conclusions. Right off the top, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are not only guaranteed to stay on the roster but guaranteed to play on the same line together. This is a clear no-brainer after the trio dominated the league last season.
Another likely grouping exists further down in the lineup; forwards Carl Soderberg, Gabriel Bourque, and Matthew Nieto gained confidence together last year, making for a solid depth line. From there, the lines may not be quite as clear, but the players still are. For example, Matt Calvert and Colin Wilson give Colorado experience that the rest of their roster doesn’t have. They’re seasoned veterans destined for depth roles with the club.
Then, there are the emerging youngsters fighting to improve on strong seasons last year. Its nearly impossible to imagine the Avalanche roster without the likes of Sven Andrighetto, Tyson Jost, J.T. Compher, or Alexander Kerfoot. Already we’re at 12 forwards, the standard amount dressed on game-day.
Picking the Extra Forwards
So, who’s left? The Avalanche might dress the above 12 on opening night, but they’ve got room to carry two more bodies. With four guys to choose from, there are still some interesting decisions to make.
Last year, Vladislav Kamenev and Dominic Toninato each played a few games for the Avs. They may have been favourites earlier in the discussions, but right winger Logan O’Connor could be ahead in the race now. He’s had a strong training camp since signing as a free agent this summer. The ex-Denver University (NCAA DI) captain might have more to prove but should wind up on the roster to start the year.
The fourth forward, Sheldon Dries, could be a dark horse candidate. It seems unlikely he jumps ahead of any one of the other three, but a great pre-season showing in their next game could change that quickly.
Last Moves on Defense
Similar to the forward group, most of the defensemen left are guys expected to play regularly. However, 11 still sit on the roster, leaving four cuts to be made.
Without a doubt, Colorado will have Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Nikita Zadorov, Ian Cole and Samuel Girard on their roster and probably in their lineup every night. Essentially, then, the other six defensemen left are fighting for two roster spots and only one spot in the lineup itself.
Anton Lindholm, Patrik Nemeth, Mark Barberio, David Warsofsky, and Mark Alt all logged NHL minutes last season, just to make things more complicated. Only Conor Timmins, their second-round pick from 2017, has yet to play professional hockey. Unfortunately for him, that kind of qualifies him to be the most likely to be reassigned next.
Next Up, Finishing the Preseason
All these battles will be solved sooner than later, as the team wraps up their preseason schedule on Sunday. This leaves the Avalanche roster, primarily the fringe players, two preseason games and three days to make one last impression. Expect all of them to suit up once or twice more to finish making those decisions.